Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Twice shy, once Bittern

I have posted a couple of times about hunts for white birds in which I have come up shy.  So when Duncan reported finding an Australasian Bittern in the Northern part of the ACT I thought I might as well go the extra mile (OK, about 6 miles, as we had business in Barton) and check it out.

This snip from Google Earth shows in red the general area where Duncan saw the bird and in green the pond to which it was later seen by Julian to fly.
 Moving forward a day, one observer reported no luck in either area early on 10 June.  So I got there about 11am meeting two other birders on the same mission.  We decided that as the bird had last been seen in the pond (green area) we'd start by circling that.  (NB It had more water in it than was the case when this Google Earth image was taken.)

We started near where the underpass comes under the road heading clockwise.   After about 50m we got to the start of the yellow arrow.   An Australian Bittern flushed from that spot and flew to approximately the area marked with a yellow ellipse dropping into the 1.8m high reeds now in that area.
Once we had recovered our equanimities and stopped high-fiving each other we proceeded to the area marked with a red ellipse and peered at the reeds.  If anyone thinks trying to spot a Painted Snipe is hard, try looking for a bittern in a reed bed.  Amazingly I not only spotted it but there was a very good landmark (a concrete drain on the far side of the pond) to give as a guide for the others.

Here are a couple of images I got.  Look closely, it is there, facing left in the first image and right in the second.

I had to leave after about 40 minutes by which time a horde was beginning to descend.  Among the horde was Ian Fraser who took this far more revealing photograph, for which I thank him.
When Ian posted that to the COG chatline it was the first published photograph of an Australian Bittern taken in the ACT.  Using the late Steve Wilson's book as the authority this is the third accepted record of this species in the ACT: the previous two are from 1943 and 1946!  (And if it isn't accepted ...... )

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